“The son was prodigal indeed – yet he wasn’t the only prodigal character in the story…”
The Prodigal Son (as we know it)
The parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-24) is one of Jesus’ most detailed parable, which generally pinpoints the Pharisees’ self-righteous character (as portrayed by the older brother) and God’s redemptive hand for His stiff-necked people (as portrayed by the younger brother).
It starts off with the younger son, asking for his share of his father’s inheritance (v. 12). He packed his bags and wandered off to a foreign country in order to live out his life to appease his worldly desires. When he had spent everything he had and a sever famine hit the land, he then began to be in need (v.14).
He became bankrupt, famished and wasted. In fact he was so hungry, he had second thoughts in consuming the food that was meant for pigs (v. 15 -16)
He came to his senses and went back to his father to admit his mistake and to apply as a hired servant in his father’s household.
The father took him back, forgave him and the rest was history.
When you first read the story, you’d find yourself relating to the younger brother –his egotistical personality, his conceited reliance on himself in wanting to live a life outside of his father’s guidance and his reckless behavior that led him to become bankrupt, broken and depressed.
We also saw his soft side – his humility in admitting his mess, his broken heart that led him to repentance and his bold decision to restore his relationship with his father by facing the consequences of his actions, even if it means losing his son-ship and be hired as a servant.
The son was prodigal indeed – his lavish lifestyle, his reckless decision making and wasteful spending.
Yet he wasn’t the only prodigal character in the story. Perhaps this other character was even more prodigal than the son!
Let’s continue on with the story, this time with more focus on the father.
The Prodigal Father
After a eureka moment, the prodigal son decided to go back home. Perhaps he rehearsed the perfect “accept-me” speech on his way back, over and over again. : “I have sinned against you. I am no longer worthy to be your son. Treat me as one of your servants.”
Perhaps he imagined countless scenarios of his father’s possible reaction when he sees him.
After a long voyage, he reached his father’s house.
Anxiety and fear filled his heart, but he felt as if he had no choice but to muster up his strength and swallow his pride.
He advanced slowly so he that he had more time to memorize and practice the lines for his speech. As he grew closer to the front gate, he saw a familiar figure standing outside it.
It was his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him.
His father waited day and night, knowing that his son would come back to his senses and return home.
The story doesn’t say how long he waited, it might have took him days, months or even years! – but the father waited.
Upon seeing his son from afar, the father felt compassion (v. 20).
I would like to define compassion as an uneasy feeling when you see someone in need, a churning in the stomach that goes beyond sympathy, which can only be solved by an immediate action.
The father didn’t get angry, he didn’t command his servants to lock the doors and not allow his son to come in – he felt genuine happiness and compassion upon seeing his son come back.
The father ran towards his son – he sprinted like never before and though it was a mile long, he showed no signs of slowing down.
His actions were very unlikely for someone who was very rich and had hundreds of hired servants.
He could have just ordered his servants to open the gates and let his son come in or he could have called a chariot to bring him to his son – but he didn’t.
“Compassion as an uneasy feeling when you see someone in need, a churning in the stomach that goes beyond sympathy, which can only be solved by an immediate action.”
Just feet away from his son, the father tackled his lost boy, embraced him and kissed him – with his clean, fresh, white robe, the father squeezed his muddy, pig-smelling, famine inflicted, bankrupt and wasted son as if there was no tomorrow.
The son was shook to the core and may have forgotten the “sorry speech” he practiced for days – he was probably crying out of shame, out of abandonment, out of desperation and hopelessness.
He didn’t want that moment to end – he just wanted to be inside the arms of his loving father.
But then it hit him, apologizing isn’t enough; he had to do something to pay back what he did to his father. The son still insisted to be treated as one of his father’s servants but the father did the opposite of his son’s request – the Father gave his son the best treatment despite of his son’s worst behavior. He gave him the best robe, the best pair of shoes, had the best calf roasted and threw the best “welcome back” party anyone could host.
And you may still sit there and ask why – why such a response from the father?
After everything his son did to disappoint him, after all the disrespect and arrogance from his son – why?
He could have just hired him as one of their servants or could have given him a lecture entitled “I told you so.” But why? Why did the father choose to love and accept someone so reckless and undeserving.
Because the father loved his son prodigally.
“The father tackled his lost boy, embraced him and kissed him – with his clean, fresh, white robe, the father squeezed his muddy, pig-smelling, famine inflicted, bankrupt and wasted son as if there was no tomorrow.”
The Father excessively exercised redemption by reaching his hand to pull his son out of the mud and into his kingdom.
He lavishly poured out his grace to someone who deserves to be locked out because of his actions.
He extravagantly showed his affection by running towards his broken son, with the goal of restoring him back and reminding him that he’s still part of the family.
There’s nothing that the son could do in order to gain back his family title for he was a child of his father by birth, not by worth.
Re-read the story again and tell me who is more prodigal: the son or the Father?
“He was a child of his father by birth – not by worth.”